Astronomy buffs traveling for eclipse, viewing events to take place across region – Rockford Register Star

Adam Poulisse Staff writer @adampoulisse

ROCKFORD Duane Ingram has seen, and been a part of, some pretty impressive science in his lifetime.

TheLoves Park resident taught astronomy and physics at Rock Valley College, owns Ingram Scientific Consultants and has studied the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, through the University of Iowa.

But at 79 years old,he’s still not seen atotal solar eclipse. On Monday, that will change.

Ingram and his wife are traveling to Columbia, Missouri, to get an unobstructed view of “The Great American Eclipse” when the moon will pass between the Sun and Earth, casting a 70 mile-wide shadow that will move from coast to coast.

The rare celestial event marks the first total solar eclipse that can be viewed from the contiguous U.S. since Feb. 26, 1979. Along the path of totality that covers a swath ofthe country from South Carolina to Oregon, the sun will be completely blocked by the moon for about 2 1/2 minutes. It mirrors the path the solar eclipse of June 1918 took from Florida to Washington.

“There were a couple that I thought Id see but didnt,” Ingram said. “This time, Im retired; its my time. Im going to see it.

Ingram is traveling to Missouri to be in the path of totality. TheRockfordregion is just outside the path, so wewon’t get a full eclipse. But with 88 percent of the sun covered,residents can expect aneat show providing the weather is clear, according to Jim Dole, director of the Doug Firebaugh Observatory in Freeport, 2892 W. Stephenson St., andastronomy teacher at Highland Community College. The National Weather Service is calling for partly sunny skies with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

The eclipse will begin around 11:45 a.m. and last until about 2:40 p.m. Maximum coverage, when the area will be the darkest,will happen around 1:15 p.m.

“You should be able to step outside and there should be an eerie, silvery gray look in the sky,” Dole said. “The birds and animals will be changing a bit, thinking it’s nighttime.”

Don’tplan to view the space event at any of the area observatories though, nobody will be there to operate them.

Dole and the eight-person volunteerstaff are traveling across the countryto experience the full solar eclipse. Dole is traveling to Beatrice, Nebraska, a prime viewing spot about an hour south of Lincoln that is expecting thousands of people, including NASA officials and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

But many people plan to view the eclipse right here, partaking in family-friendlyviewing parties and other activities.

“There are solar eclipses around the year, but with three-fourths of the planet being covered in water, a majority of them fall over the oceans,” Dole said. “This path of totality is fantastic.”

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Events galore

Boone County Conservation District and Ida Public Library will host a Solar Eclipse Viewing Partybeginning at 11:30 a.m. Monday inSpencer Park, 899 N. Appleton Road in Belvidere. Food trucks, crafts, a NASA livestream from other parts of the country and other activities are planned. Solar eclipse viewing glasses will be given to the first 500 guests. Solar eclipse handouts and free commemorative buttons will be distributed.

Nature at the Confluence Learning Center, 306 Dickop St. in South Beloit, in partnership with the South Beloit and Beloit libraries, is hosting a celebrationat 11:30 a.m. There will be arts and crafts, treats, a fire-starting competition using the sun’s rays and more.

The eclipse also marks the first day of the new school year for Rockford Public Schools, and some classes will be participating in eclipse-related learning activities.

Communities in southern Illinois havebeen deemed a prime viewing spot and will have plenty of events planned to celebrate the phenomenon. About 200,000 visitors are expected to travel to the region over the weekend. The eclipse’s greatest duration will happen in Carbondale and the village of Makanda, at 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Several events are planned including:

The four-day Moonstock Music Festival in Carterville headlined by the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.

A canoe trip down the cypress swamp on the Cache Riverduring totality.

Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass will provide an unobstructed view of the eclipse.

The Adler Planetarium of Chicago, the Louisiana Space Consortium and NASA will host a viewing event at Saluki Stadium at Southern Illinois University.

Jeff Carpenter of Roscoe has a campsite reserved in Carbondale, but declined to say exactlywhere so he doesn’t give away his prime viewing spot.

“Itll be nice to see and add to the list of things Ive seen in the universe,” he said. “Ive seen so many pictures (of total solar eclipses), I need to see one for myself.

Dole said he chose to travel west because there’s a higher chance of visibility in Nebraska than in southern Illinois.

While some are traveling, others are looking forward to seeing the 88 percent solar eclipsein Rockford.

Terri Carpenter of Machesney Park is getting off work at noon just in time to watch theeclipse at its highest point.

“Hopefully it’ll bring good energy with everything happening in the world,” she said.

Safe specs

Scientists and astronomers are warning spectators to be safe when viewing the eclipse because, while it’s neat to behold, staring at the sun can cause permanent eye damage.

“Without special filters, even if it’s 99 percent of the sun is covered, you need eye protection; we’re going to be at about 90 percent coverage,” Dole said. “You’re not going to feel (damage) until the next few days when your vision is fuzzy and distorted.”

Eclipse glasses have been handed out at local libraries and observatories to allow viewers to safely look at the event. Glasses and hand-held viewers should meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard. No. 14 arc welder’s glass can also be used to safely view the eclipse directly.

UTC Aerospace Systems Rockford’s Space Business and Community Leadership Club is donating about 1,000 pair of safety glasses to Maud E. Johnson and A.C. Thompson elementary schools as part of its effort to support STEM education in local communities, spokesman Tim Schmeling said.

“The Rockford employees are currently working on life support systems and thermal control systems for NASAs Orion vehicle, intended for deep space missions like Mars, and thought the glasses donation would be a good way to share their passion for space exploration with the students,” he said. “The glasses themselves are not manufactured by the business.”

And don’t forget about the family pets.

Though they won’t be as inclined to look directly at theeclipse as we will be, revelries such as fireworks and other commotion to celebrate the event could stress them out, said Kari Kobus, a veterinarian at Hillcrest Animal Hospital on Alpine Road.

“The biggest issue with pets, in any event, is how we react,” Kobus said. “If we’re stressed and overly excited, they’re going to get stressed and overly excited.”

Domesticated animals won’t react like wildlife will during the eclipse since they operate on a similar schedule as us. Since it’ll get pretty dark during maximum coverage, Kobus said, “It’ll look like a horrible thunderstorm is passing over the area.” It’s important to keep pets close and make sure they don’t have away to escape if any sudden noises spook them.

If you miss this eclipse, you can catch the next one on April 8, 2024.

“For not seeing one in my life, then seeing two in seven years, that’s fantastic,” Dole said. “Millions of people going to see first at least onefor the first time in their lives. It’s really been a boost for astronomy.”

Adam Poulisse: 815-987-1344; apoulisse@rrstar.com; @adampoulisse

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Astronomy buffs traveling for eclipse, viewing events to take place across region – Rockford Register Star

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